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perturbative string theory vacuum

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Context

Vacua

String theory

Contents

Idea

In perturbative quantum field theory a vacuum state is the information needed to turn a product of field observables such as Φ a(x)Φ b(y)\mathbf{\Phi}^a(x) \mathbf{\Phi}^b(y) into a function (or rather: generalized function/distribution) of the insertion points xx any yy, namely the n-point function (here 2-point function, also called the Hadamard propagator)

Φ a(x)Φ b(y) \langle \mathbf{\Phi}^a(x) \mathbf{\Phi}^b(y)\rangle

which may be regarded as the probability amplitude for a quantum in state bb at spacetime point yy to turn into a quantum in state aa at spacetime point xx, in the given state that the fields are in, which is defined thereby (see at state in AQFT).

In the worldline formalism of field theories these propagators arise from a 1-dimensional field theory on the “worldline” of (virtual) particles running from yy to xx.

Now by the very definition of perturbative string theory, these particles are replaced by strings whose dynamics is now encoded in a 2d field theory on the worldsheet of strings, specifically a 2d superconformal field theory (2d SCFT) of central charge 15. Hence now it is the 2d SCFT which defines the vacuum state that the perturbative string theory is in.

This is then called a perturbative string theory vacuum.

If this 2d SCFT arises from quantization of a sigma-model, then this is called a geometric background, otherwise it is a purely algebraically defined non-geometric string vacuum.

In practice full 2d SCFTs are hard to construct, and often one considers them by perturbation theory of a “sigma-model” which is defined by a spacetime manifold equipped with extra fields (e.g. the B-field etc.). It turns out that to low order these background field configurations that define sigma-model 2d SCFTs are given by solutions to equations of motion of supergravity theories (e.g. type II supergravity for type II string theory, etc.)

Therefore often such supergravity solutions equipped with some extra data that makes them consistent CFT backgrounds at higher order are referred to as vacua for string theory. But this is in general a coarse approximation. The full vacua are the full 2d SCFTs that define the worldsheet theory of the string.

The collection of all string vacua, possibly subject to some assumptions, has come to be called the landscape of string theory vacua.

vacua – contents

Last revised on May 17, 2019 at 16:02:40. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.